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This is an archive site and is not updated. It represents works conducted by Oxford University Museums funded by Arts Council England between 2012-2018. For information about our current work please visit

“The Amazing Things People Did for Medicine and Other Stuff”

25 February 13 -- jsuess
From November 2011 to June 2012 year 2 children at St Philip and St James Primary School, Oxford, worked with the education officer Michelle Holloway and other museum staff at the Museum of the History of Science to create a temporary exhibition on the history of medicine.

The project aimed to teach the children involved both about the history of medicine, and about the process of curating an exhibition. All parts of the exhibition were worked on by the children: they chose the title, the objects, wrote the labels and the panels.
Three children have a thoughtful look at some potential objects for their exhibition

(c) Museum of the History of Science
The project began with a visit from the children to the museum in December to get to know the building, the people who work there and the collection. They returned to the museum in February for a session where they learnt about the seven most important ideas in the history of medicine by handling objects, exploring the collections, and hearing stories about the lives of the people behind these ideas. This provided a starting point for their classroom work on the history of medicine.

On their third visit to the museum they had the opportunity to view a variety of objects from which they would select items for the exhibition. The class was then broken into a series of “expert groups” covering all the elements behind curating an exhibition including experts in labels and panels, in display and object selection, in design, in publicity, in collections management and in conservation. These groups worked with museums staff to prepare the display.

A collections expert looks at a potential exhibit - with gloves on of course
(c) Museum of the History of Science
The final exhibition included 16 objects in a display case in the Museum’s entrance gallery, complete with labels and interpretation produced by the children. Parents, Governors and the Head were invited to join the children for a private view of the exhibition the day before it opened. The children hosted and lead this event.

The exhibition itself was a display not only of objects, but of how the children understood and engaged with those objects. To that end the museum decided not to edit any of the labels the children produced, so that visitors could engage with the children’s understanding and knowledge of the objects.

The project was highly successful in engaging the children with the history of medicine in a fun and interactive way. It also challenged them to communicate what they had learnt in new and different ways, and understand the value of sharing knowledge.

For more information about this project please visit the Special Projects page on the Museum of the History of Science website.